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Anyone who has spent time in the military is uber-familiar with the infamous AAR—After Action Review. Rehearsing anything from an infantry assault on an enemy position to a military parade is immediately followed by a discussion of what went well, what didn’t, and how to improve it for next time. Immediacy is critical, while everything is still fresh in the mind. And everyone participates, from the senior leader to the newest member of the team.

What’s that got to do with healthcare marketing?

The AAR is a valuable tool for processing which marketing campaigns are working (or not working) and potential reasons why. AARs also help use the data gleaned to determine shortfalls, optimize practices, and build more successful campaigns for the future.

Here’s what you’ll need to implement a good AAR for your marketing.

1. Make it a priority. Get it on everyone's calendar and make it part of your standard process. When you formalize the AAR as part of the process, it ingrains its importance to the team. And do it as quickly as you can so everything is still fresh in everyone's mind.

2. Include everyone. Everyone will have a unique perspective and insight. Make sure you create a welcome environment where people are comfortable with honest discussion. This isn’t a performance review session but an honest-to-goodness assessment, so the next project is better than the last one.

3. Ask the Right Questions. The process centers around four main questions:

What did we expect to happen?
What did you and the team anticipate as the end result? Was the target audience reached? Did people click through to the website? Did phones ring off the hook with new medical device orders?

What happened?
Once you discuss initial expectations, plunge into what actually occurred and don’t hold back. Again, this isn't a personnel performance review but a genuine examination of the marketing campaign. Explore both the positives and the negatives. Get insight from each team member from their perspective.

What went well and why?
Here’s where you discover what’s working and why so you can replicate it in the future.

What can we improve, and how?
Tackle this question after discussing what went right.

What can you do more accurately and efficiently next time?
The purpose is to learn from the mistakes made so that they aren’t made again in the future. And make sure you uncover why some things didn’t work as well as expected. It’s the why that will help improve your campaigns next time.

4. Write Your Report. No need to be fancy here; just summarize the points made during the meeting and list the win and the mistakes to be remedied next time. Look for items that you need to put together before the next campaign. Do you need fresh market research? New audience data? Are your old marketing channels still working, or do you need to explore other outlets? Oh, and a caveat: Identify a primary note-taker for the AAR to free you up to lead the discussion. This will make writing the report much easier.

5. Implement Changes. Don’t put off implementing changes suggested by your AAR. The closer you get to the next campaign deadline, the easier it is to fall into old patterns without acting on the new knowledge you gleaned.

Comments: Ben Singleton